First things first. I LOVED the Ryder Cup. It was fierce and furious and compelling stuff from start to finish. I watched at Whittington Heath Golf Club; at The Horse And Jockey in Sandford Street in Lichfield; and at home listened to the incomparable team on BBC Radio 5 Live. The foursomes wipe-out at the start was very depressing from a European point of view and probably consigned us to a bbu (brave but unavailing) but we scared the heck out of the Americans and stayed in the match well into Sunday.
The final score, 17-11, didn’t reflect the tension and the nerve-wracking nature of the singles – or was that just me thinking that our rookies might pull off mission well-nigh impossible? It was asking a lot of Andy Sullivan, Chris Wood and Matt Fitzpatrick to play just the once before setting out into the inferno on their own on Sunday and they played with plenty of heart but, as so often when you really, really need to hole absolutely everything, the putts slid by or came up short. The USA, who seemed to hole everything, deserved to win.
They put a lot of work, heart-searching and task-forcing into overturning their run of three defeats in a row but, quite simply, they had become sick and tired of losing and eight years is a long, dispiriting time to be on the wrong side of the bragging rights. I hadn’t appreciated that the genial Brandt Snedeker, the most affable of men, seemed to hold himself solely responsible for the defeat at Medinah and he putted like a man possessed, determined not to let Davis Love III down again. Sullivan hung in there grimly but Snedeker, supported every shot of the way by Bubba Watson, the vice-captain that many felt should be playing, was implacable.
Wood took Dustin Johnson, the easy-ozy US Open champion, to the 18th and looked in good form, comfortable in the cauldron. Fitzpatrick, who looked no more than 12 years old to all us ageing swingers, was thrown to the wolves in the bottom match, impressing Zach Johnson but losing 4 and 3 to the former Masters and Open champion. I like a proper anchor person, just in case and who knows? Perhaps Fitzpatrick will fit the bill in Paris in two years’ time. The young Yorkshireman has just been through the sort of eye-opening, eye-popping experience that no coach can teach, roughly a decade’s worth packed into one torrid week.
Thomas Pieters and Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who were quite brilliant, performing above and beyond, revelled in showing off their skills to an audience that struggled to pronounce their names. They’re tripping off the tongue now.
Danny Willett was the most celebrated of Europe’s six rookies because he is the Masters champion, a role he is having to grow into. He only needs to talk to Jordan Spieth to discover just how much you can be weighed down by great potential and even greater expectations, your own more than those of anyone else. He was struggling with his game, not what you want during Ryder Cup week and then his brother Pete’s not-so-smart, smart-alec, snarky column hit the stratosphere.
At the beginning there was a lot of intriguing stuff about pairings and personality types but no one remembered that once they hit the Semtex about the American crowds that had to be silenced if the Europeans were to have a chance. It was not pretty. It was the sort of thing you might say in the pub with your friends or at home with your nearest and dearest when you can be as nasty and scathing as you like without worrying too much about the consequences. You might carry it off as a stand-up, with timing and facial expressions helping the cause. It was a trick that proved impossible to pull off in print.
I shared the column on Facebook and one friend, a Scotsman, said, “Jesus. All I can say after that is come on USA.”
Once the match started, my Facebook friends were not happy about how the spectators were behaving, Teasing and banter is fine, even cheering as the opposition go in the water is ok-ish (we did it in the pub!) but vitriolic, sometimes vile personal abuse of a player, his wife, parent, family, friend or anyone is shameful, indefensible and unacceptable. So is shouting at the top of a player’s backswing or just before he putts. Loud mouths with immaculate timing (i.e. in between shots) we can tolerate; foul mouths must accompany their owners off the property, pronto.
As you know, I could go on and on but it’s time to stop, congratulate the USA and Davis and the valiant Europeans and Darren and start saving for Paris; it’s not far and they might still be letting us in….If not, there’s always the pub. Vive Le Cheval Et Jockey! Vive Le Ryder Cup!
Ole, ole, ole, it’s here at last. It’s Ryder Cup weekend and I’m at home without wall to wall Sky but there’s the golf club and the pub, 5 Live on the radio (brilliant and no ads or – insert here your own favourite least-liked talking head) and the internet to bring me more than enough gossip in the build-up. The only trouble with toddling round to The Horse and Jockey to watch (the landlord James is a mad keen golfer) is that I can’t go in my pyjamas and dressing gown but that’s a small price to pay. (Sky were so economical with the truth that sports nut though I am I’ll never have another contract with them. It’s better for my bank balance and better for my health because it makes it more difficult for me to watch rugby from every hemisphere; wait until the end of the over; just see how this set goes; keep an eye on the football in Scotland or wherever; and stay up into the middle of the night watching golf from an inconvenient time zone.)
I’m so excited it’s untrue. Come on Darren and the boys. I can’t believe the people who think it won’t be close again. I’ve got it as a tie, with us (this is a blog so no need to be even-handed, sorry Davis) retaining. It’s not a rule I approve of; in fact I think it’s nonsensical. If it’s a tie, share the trophy. Why on earth should the holders start each match 1/2 a point ahead? There haven’t been many ties but I was glad to hear that David Leadbetter also plumps for it being too close to call.
The week started on a sad note with the death of Arnold Palmer but on reflection the great man got his timing just right because it’s the perfect occasion to remember him with due pomp and circumstance, with so many of the great and the good of golf on hand. Arnold was a fiercely competitive animal who won plenty but it was his charm, courtesy and caring that dominated the tributes. However you measure charisma he had it in trailer-loads; in his youth he was handsome and dashing and nobody could rock a cardie like Arnie; his swing was hardly textbook but it worked; and he didn’t know the meaning of caution or playing the percentages. Seve anybody?
Perhaps the Palmer factor will tip the result in favour of the USA, who knows? Even now it’s hard to figure out how Europe won at Medinah or Celtic Manor or (in the Solheim Cup) at Loch Lomond or Killeen Castle. The golfing gods move in mysterious ways. Arnold played in an era when the USA dominated the Ryder Cup and was never on a losing side but he did lose, notably to Peter Alliss and Peter Oosterhuis (twice) in singles and he even halved with Harry Bannerman, who was no mean golfer. Palmer was not invincible but he lived his life as though he was and loved every single minute.
If every single player gives every last drop of effort this weekend and accepts the result with grace and equanimity (at least outwardly) and has a josh and a beverage afterwards, with a re-match planned, that’ll be a fitting tribute to the lad from Latrobe who became the king of golf.